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19 October 2015

The European Court of Justice has upheld a decision of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to withhold information on the production quantities of hazardous chemicals.


In 2011, proceedings were taken by two environmental NGOs, ChemSec and ClientEarth, to force ECHA to reveal the names of the manufacturers and importers as well as specific tonnages relating to more than 300 hazardous substances. 


ECHA subsequently revealed the names of the manufacturers and importers, as well as the aggregated tonnage bands in which the substances had been registered under the REACH Regulation (though precise tonnages were not revealed).   However, ECHA declined to reveal this information for the 95 companies that had claimed commercial confidentiality for this data.  


The European Court of Justice has now ruled that ECHA correctly applied the United Nation’s convention on access to environmental information. Regulation 1049/2001 on access to documents and Article 118 of REACH in not providing the information.  The Court said ECHA, ‘was entitled to take the view that the disclosure of the precise tonnage of the substances registered would have undermined the (company’s) commercial interests.’ The court also stated that they did not consider the case presented by ChemSec and Client Earth to be strong enough when discussing why disclosure of tonnage data was in the public interest.


ECHA has welcomed the decision saying it will provide clarity to its stakeholders for the future.  ChemSec and ClientEarth are considering whether to appeal.

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